More and more Linux machines are installed as part of a network of computers. To simplify network administration, most UNIX networks did run the Network Information Service.

Even if a lot of people declare NIS for dead and evil since several years and most new installations will use LDAP or Windows Active Directory, there is still a very huge base of NIS installations.

The Network Information Service (NIS) provides a simple network lookup service consisting of databases and processes. It was formerly known as Sun Yellow Pages (YP). The functionality of the two remains the same; only the name has changed. Its purpose is to provide information, that has to be known throughout the network, to all machines on the network. Information likely to be distributed by NIS is:

  • login names/passwords/home directories (/etc/passwd)
  • group information (/etc/group)
  • host names and IP numbers (/etc/hosts)

So, for example, if your password entry is recorded in the NIS passwd database, you will be able to login on all machines on the net which have the NIS client programs running.

NIS+ (Network Information Service Plus) was introduced by Sun Microsystems with the Solaris 2.x OS. It is compatible with NIS, but has a lot of additional features. With NIS+ it is possible to have hierarchical domains. All changes are done in the NIS+ database, it is not longer necessary to make changes on source files and to rebuild the complete maps. All changes are logged, so that a replica server can sync if it was down for some time.

Linux machines can take full advantage of existing NIS service or provide NIS service themselves. They can also act as full NIS+ clients, but the code did never reach beta quality and nobody is working on this anymore since decades.

This site tries to answer questions about setting up NIS(YP) and NIS+ on your Linux machine and the necessary tools.

Linux Pinguin

Thorsten Kukuk
Last modified: Sun Jan 22 15:09:32 CET 2012